• Bridge Ladies

    Bridge Ladies When I set out to learn about my mother's bridge club, the Jewish octogenarians behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, their gen, and the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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Wild Geese That Fly With The Moon On Their Wing

It’s kind of amazing, if you think about it, that poetry gets its own month. There’s a lot of important and vital shit out there that doesn’t get its own month, like Stem Cell Month or Bi-Polar Month or Mountain Dew month. I’m all in favor of it, don’t get me wrong. A little poetry never hurt anyone, though the road to hell is paved with poets. Which came first: iambic pentameter or the desire to self-destruct. Or the desire to put pressure on language, flip it, douse it with gasoline, light a match. Daddy you do not do. The asshole is holy. My body electric. Hush Saxon, say it again. He forced the underbrush and that was all. Pablo Picasso, they never called him an asshole.  Darkness my name is. I remember Richard Howard, glass raised to his eye, reciting The Moose. Someone said it was an egg nestled in the eyebrows of Milosz. Or Denis Johnson silent as a stone. People ask me if I still write poems: no. Though today, leafing through an old journal, one fell out. You’d’ve thought I found gold, that letter from another life. .

What was the last poem you wrote?

51 Responses

  1. It was last year in India. The poem itself was a reminder to write poems, to seize a moment, like the kitten who lived outside our room would pounce on its mother’s tail, and bite it, wrestle with life’s squirming un-pin-downableness. And life swats and bites back and kangaroo punches us, the way Momcat lovingly cuffed her baby. You have to be tough to be a cat in India.

  2. Baby Animal

    “The smaller the animal, the faster the heart” – Delivering doctor

    Just born, your heart was fast as a kitten’s,
    You had duckling down on your head.

    Hungry, you called from your pink lamb’s mouth,
    Your throat trembling like a thrush while you drank.

    Now, at nine months, you’ve reach your puppy phase,
    Full of tricks as you wave and clap, roll and sit,

    Carry stuffed toys in your mouth,
    Chew out slippers and books –

    Your vestigial tail wagging, wagging.

  3. a 4 page prose poem (i think) called “the paradise motel” that ends:

    on the floor, his eyeglasses, coated with liquid gold. it’s leaking from his tear-ducts like stigmata: a chlorpromazine Jesus.

    ps i hope i never write another poem because this almost killed me.

  4. Hi,

    I teach high school English, and every year I tell my students that it’s not an understatement to say that poetry saved my life. And even though I’ve had a huge dry spell, the last poem I wrote was actually tapped out this morning.

    I’d read somewhere that there was something happening this month similar to NaNoWriMo, only with poetry. One poem a day for thirty days. I mentioned this to my daughters (10 and 13) and they were all over it. They want us each to write 30 poems and make up the difference to reach 100 overall. And then–their idea–they want to self-publish it as an e-book, so we can each get a copy. I have written eleven crappy poems so far. They both have many more than I do. They’re kicking my ass. And I couldn’t be more tickled about it. 🙂

    Dan Tricarico

    P.S. You’re still one of my favorite writers, by the way. And I still promised myself that if I’m going to keep saying that, I cannot ever send you a query. Thanks for the blog; it’s a gift.

  5. Back in ’91, when I was living in a tent city in Amsterdam. I was in love with a German boy who couldn’t speak English. I don’t think he even noticed me but I have a way of getting what I want. I still have those poems and you’re right. It is like finding gold, big blocks of it.

    By the way, I thought I saw you walking down East 79th Street on Saturday. You had on white pants and almost got hit by a car because you were too busy talking with another woman to notice the light had changed.

  6. Last week I wrote Hooker School Writers Workshop–here it is:

    Hooker School Writers’ Workshop

    How can an old schoolhouse be a haven
    For old people, its halls echoing shouts
    Of six year olds, their teachers scolding them
    As if that would cure their misbehavior
    And we laugh with wild abandon meanwhile
    As if we had recaptured youth long gone
    Never to return except in writing
    Stories of adventures, some imagined.

    For what is an old person but a stack
    Of dried timber longing to return home
    Caught in a web of tangled vines, ivied
    Over like an old oak tree, leaves falling,
    So I return to my old stories then
    And take them with me clinging to our raft.
    When we get where we’re going we’ll laugh
    And wonder why we thought the trip was hard.

    Millions have traveled this road to nowhere
    Some believed we have a destination
    But does it matter as long as we get there
    Wherever it is, whatever it’s called,
    Let’s hope we enjoy the trip together
    Have a few laughs, forget our troubles while
    We write our memoirs, listen to our songs
    Echoing inside this old school’s brick walls.

    Nadine Gallo
    April 11, 2012

  7. I’m no poet, having written only one, and that to the love of my life. It is framed now, in our bedroom.

  8. Last night I walked past an old apartment building where Sylvia P. used to live. I do this all the time. I never really linger or anything, though young girls are known to hang out on the steps with their journals. This night I glanced up the narrow street and there was a red light glowing in the upstairs window. Very strange, I thought. Now, I’m wondering if the poet might be emerging for Poetry month? Maybe she’ll help me out, as I can’t write a poem to save my life.

  9. During the trial we lost, I was asked to describe my granddaughter’s day. I was unprepared and stumbled through generalized comments about vents, diapers, lessons and nurses rounds. The jury was unimpressed.
    I thought about that specific failure for weeks and wished I was a poet so my testimony could have been more than words.

    Kimee’s Day

    Soft fluid fingers, over my face,
    Brings a new day, of love and grace.
    Senses are missing, I do not have much,
    My eyes and ears, can’t interpret your touch.

    The night has been long, I’m ready to rise,
    I feel the sun, though it’s denied my eyes.
    Coffee and Danish, are shared in the hall,
    I breathe through a trach, can’t smell at all.

    To thwart pneumonia, a sad step was made,
    Now when I cry, I only change shade.
    Mute was the cost, a difficult choice,
    Forever to miss, my nubile voice.

    Bath in a basket, swaddled in a towel,
    Wash away night juices, sticky and foul.
    Dress me in pink, some gold and bright color,
    I see not the hues, but feel the velour.

    After night’s slumber, to sit in my chair,
    Is relief from bed sores, by hands that care.
    Meds in the morning, and a bib to catch drool,
    Just sponge my face, and off to school.

    I learn of the world, as best I can,
    Things soft and hard, or warm as your hand.
    Sand and salt, sift away through my fingers,
    But Play-Doh and clay, are touches that linger.

    Lunch is continuous, I cannot chew,
    I don’t know French fries, burgers, or sodas too.
    All is pre-made, my diet is precise,
    Down my G-tube, no taste to delight.

    After lunch field trip, this time to the pool,
    An aide holding tight, aqua therapy’s a tool.
    The water flows over, warm and inviting,
    It lifts my legs, I float, it’s exciting.

    Back to the classroom, for one more lesson,
    I preserve a tradition, and sleep for the session.
    But meds and changes, keep interrupting,
    More PT and OT, there’s always something.

    My learning is done, we’re out at three,
    Back to my room, and private reverie.
    It’s time that I teach, the nurse wanta-bes,
    Students from med schools, come care for me.

    Mistakes are made, fingers get fumble,
    My life is precarious, it makes them humble.
    They learn their craft, not just for treasure,
    Nursing is more, than charts and measures.

    I teach them that touching, is one way to talk,
    When sight and sound, are off the block.
    How hands that hold, and clean up the mess,
    Are helping and healing, with each caress.

    Shift changes, tie-ins, and documenting,
    The day is finished, most staff are leaving.
    Their five senses evenings, happily unfurl,
    They leave me to lie, in my touch only world.

    Blessed deaf and blind, stills my surrounds,
    Of machines, monitors, and nurses’ rounds.
    Breathing is labor, by evening I’m spent,
    For an assist and to rest, I need the vent.

    Sorry… we probably still would have lost.

  10. I haven’t written a poem since lit class a few years ago, but I wrote several sestinas. I like fixed verse forms, more because I like the challenge of a puzzle than because I have anything meaningfully poetic to say. I’m still trying to figure out how I can work “rondezvous with destiny” into one of the repetitive fixed forms. I think it’d be pretty funny.

  11. An inversion of Wallace Stevens’s “Emperor of Ice Cream”, two days ago, in response to one of the daily poetry prompts (in honor of Poetry Mnth) from Janet McAdams — at http://www.Bookballon.com.

  12. So. . .
    O give me a poem with the deepest of feeling,
    A poem that makes sadness terribly appealing.
    A poem that still mourns the loss of a friend,
    Or loss of a true love I thought ne’er would end.
    A poem with sad lines, some short and some long,
    And to rhyme them at all would be definitely wrong.
    It’s no crime to rhyme, I must hurry to say,
    It’s just poets know that rhyme doesn’t pay.


  13. I’ve never written a poem. I included a poem by Ellen Bass http://www.ellenbass.com in my forthcoming young adult novel, The Voice in Maggie Feigenbaum’s Head. My narrator, a serial killer of sorts, recites the poem to her English class. It’s called “The Thing Is.” I met Ellen in Los Angeles when we were there for the Lambda Awards in 2003. She won for her MULES OF LOVE, which includes this poem:

    The Thing Is

    The Thing Is

    to love life, to love it even

    when you have no stomach for it
    and everything you’ve held dear
    crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,
    your throat filled with the silt of it.
    When grief sits with you, its tropical heat
    thickening the air, heavy as water
    more fit for gills than lungs;
    when grief weights you like your own flesh
    only more of it, an obesity of grief,
    you think, How can a body withstand this?
    Then you hold life like a face
    between your palms, a plain face,
    no charming smile, no violet eyes,
    and you say, yes, I will take you
    I will love you, again.

  14. One for Magpie Tales. Yesterday. I always thought it appropriate that April be poetry month. The season of hope and possibility

  15. “What was the last poem you wrote?”

    Hell, I don’t know. I don’t write so much poetry these days. I rounded up a few likely suspects, but they’re still in protective custody.

    The more important question regards that road. It is a broad avenue. How often does it need repaving, and what part of the budget is that going to come out of? (We’re all broke. Can’t even afford to resurface the highway to hell.)

  16. Last summer for my wedding anniversary, I wrote a poem and then painted three small canvases. One was the enlarged center of a sunflower, one a field with blurry weeds blowing about, and the last was a violet petal close up anchored to the corner. I wrote the poem out in three stanzas over the painting.
    Now understand, the poem was horrible juvenile poetry, It would have killed you to read it.
    I did it because I wanted to let my poetry reading and writing husband know that I trust him with everything, bad painting and poetry included and I could still jump into an abyss for him. Maybe silly, but he loved it and I could say something that I didn’t and don’t have the right words for.

  17. Okay…so here’s a live one, written between gulps of Maxwell House, and my frantic morning devouring of a slab of microwaved Better-n’ Eggs, with a dollop of Heinz Ketchup, on a Thomas’s ‘Everything’ Bagel Thin, slathered with WW Cream Cheese.

    A first and last poem
    Wry-Wry (Tet’s nick name for me)

    My roses aren’t red
    No lilacs at home
    I don’t write them
    But Betsy wants poems.

    So what was the last one?
    She asks us to state
    This piece of crap
    I wrote while I ate.

    This was really quite easy
    The poem I tell
    Just wrote lots of words
    And edited like hell.

    You poets, I get it
    Are really high class
    I envy the words
    You pull out of your ass.

  18. A couple of years ago I wrote a small poem titled Whirlwind. It was meant to capture what I felt at that moment, but I’m not supposed to explain a poem, am I?

    Betsy,I love that you referenced this. http://youtu.be/Kc2iLAubras

  19. Everything you write Betsy is poetry with the pointed elegance of a knife’s edge…and I love it!

    I just wrote this poem for my blog in honor of Poetry Month.


    Have you ever rediscovered yourself, surprised at the thought that you could ever forget? It happened one day to her, with the quiet opening of a window. Suddenly, she was a little girl again, peeking out on a cool, winter morning.

    While her breath connected with the world’s, her fingertips played with a shelf of snow. The memory was so sudden, so abrupt that she held her breath. It was not just her youth she tried to savor but life. The morning sat sleepy, almost motionless, but in her hands it felt vast, alive.

    So real was the memory that she licked her fingertips to taste once more the wet snow. When her eyes tried to focus out again, they fell not on winter, but an open window to SPRING. The grass was green, the flowers were blooming, the air was warm and fresh. The morning sun brought no birds, just a gentle hum of cars from a far off road.

    How very strange to think that a spring day should align with a winter memory, that lush green could be a portal to winter white? How beautiful is the mind where everything stands connected, two seasons, two windows, two pieces of the self, lost and found again.

  20. I don’t claim poetry–it strikes me I’m just putting arbitrary line breaks in sentences that I thought might have something to do with breath until I read them again and there’s no real sense to be found. Poets astound me. Getting all tied in knots about whether a comma or a line break or a hard return mean something different and what exactly that difference is where I land. Amen to poets! Betsy, didn’t you recently exort us to sleep with more of them?

  21. You tell me it is cold 
    I tell you you feel cold 
    you feel icy teeth chewing your fingers 
    you feel your ears worried in sandpaper
    you shake shake shake
    it is not cold –you are cold 
    as for me,
    my toes move up and down in my shoes searching for a cold spot
    can’t find one
    It is not warm I am

  22. My poetry these days usually is accomnpanied by simple guitar chords, nothing fancy, just fun. Some are silly lyrics to help my little girl wake up much too early in order to have a bowl of cereal before the morning bus arrives.
    There’s a sweet little girl
    Lying in her bed
    I’ve been awake for awhile
    Watching her dream
    Of colors and ponies
    Dogs and kitties
    A boat sailing over the rainbow.

    And so on.
    I wonder if it means anything to her and then I’ll catch her softly singing a song, trying out different words in a voice that would make an angel smile. If something helps her embrace words, I’ll be as goofy as a cartoon character carrying a heavy, off balance load while approaching a discarded banana peel.

    • What a sweet dad you are, Mike. I love this.

      • Thank you, Averil. We’re fortunate to have her; probably my last chance to get this family thing right.
        I just read a piece about Jorma Kaukonen (Hot Tuna, Jefferson Airplane). At age 70 he has a 6 year old he and his wife share a happy home with in Ohio (Fur Peace Ranch). He likes hanging out with her more than he loves his motorcycles and guitars.

      • Six is a wonderful age. Some of my favorite photos of my children were made around that time, with those jack-o-lantern grins and that lovable silliness. It’s hard to find a better playmate than a six-year-old.

    • You know what, most everything you say, most everything you do, the way you see her, she will see herself. How lucky she is to have a dad who defines his little girl by “…we’re fortunate to have her.” She’s fortunate to have you Mike.

  23. 1980. It was printed in the local weekly. I was paid $3. Then I wrote another one and got $3 for that one, too. It’s the only money I’ve ever earned from “creative” writing. Neither of them rhymed.

  24. I’ll admit it: I write a poem almost every day AND attend a poetry get-together (almost) every weekend. Poems – for me- are the equivalent of a sketch book, an Insta-matic camera, a hunk of wood and a knife: images, memories and dialogue can be quickly captured and transformed into something magical. Yesterday’s poem chronicled the rescue of a butterfly from my too-curious dogs. My more earnest compilation is based on poems inspired from what I see while driving around town. The editor who has organized our weeekly poetry “get-togethers” is quite impressed with this format and is gently encouraging me towards submission. At this point, I’ll pan the silt of all literary waterways for the nugget called “published”.

  25. I reread it recently, in an old magazine from the nineties. Weird hairdos. But it was a good poem, I still can’t believe they chose it. I went towards stories after that.

  26. Pulitzer Prize 2012 FICTION: No award.

    Finalists: “Train Dreams,” by Denis Johnson (Farrar, Straus and Giroux); “Swamplandia!” by Karen Russell (Alfred A. Knopf); “The Pale King,” by David Foster Wallace (Little, Brown and Company).


  27. The last good poem I wrote was a piece called “A Little Revolution” which is a techno “song” influenced by old funk like Brick House by The Commodores. http://soundcloud.com/emily-moorefield/01-alr-final-xyz-darek

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